“Hatzel and the other teleport should have got only a touch,” Telzey said.
Sams nodded. “And that’s what shook them up so completely. Only a touch—and Hatzel found he’d flipped himself halfway around Askanam! The other one didn’t go quite that far, of course; but neither had done that kind of thing before, and neither wants to do it again. They can’t remember how they did it. And they keep thinking of the various gruesome things that can happen to a teleport at the end of a blind flip—those two are very, very scared.”
His second drink came. He took a swallow, set it down, smacked his lips. “Beginning to feel more like myself!” He gave them a brief grin.
Trigger said, “Are you going to try any more operations on Askanam?”
Sams shook his head.
“Too much bother. I’d have to build up a new gang. Besides, I decided Telzey was right—I’d get bored to death in a year playing games like that. Who’s Askab in Tamandun now, by the way?”
“Vallain,” Telzey said. “Casmard abdicated publicly in his favor at the end of Glory Day. A popular decision, apparently. Casmard doesn’t intend to go back to Askanam again either.”
“He’s on board?”
Trigger said, “He was telling us in confidence a short while ago that he and Vallain had personal proof there’d been a mysterious but well-intentioned psi involved in the downfall of Toru and Ormota and the various other strange Glory Day events. He said it was something that shouldn’t be discussed, at the psi’s special request.”
“Well, there’s been no significant breach of secrecy then,” Sams said. “The Service might have got stuffy on that point.” He reflected, grinned. “I was sure Toru and Ormota would be taken out one way or another after you two ambushed Hatzel in the gardens.”
“You knew about that, eh?” Telzey said.
“Knowing you,” said Sams, “I didn’t expect you to pass up any opportunities. It wasn’t a surprise.”
“Why didn’t you try to do something about it?”
He shrugged. “Oh, I figured I could spot you Hatzel and still win the game. And if you hadn’t come up with the howler, I’d have done it.”
Telzey smiled. “Perhaps you would, Sams—perhaps you would!”
Child of the Gods
The ivory gleam of the Jadel Tower, one of the great inner city hotels, appeared ahead and to the left beneath the flow of the traffic lanes. The urge became now to turn out of the lane and go to the Jadel Tower; and there was a momentary impression that on arriving there she would be directed to set the car down on a terrace of the tall structure. Telzey tensed slowly. If she could hold out against any one specific command, she might be able to loosen the entire set of controls. She kept the car on lane course.
The urge simply grew stronger. The psi hold on her was crude and incomplete, but whoever had obtained it knew what he was doing and had force to spare. In seconds, her muscles began to tremble, and sweat started out on her face. She gave in abruptly. The Cloudsplitter dropped out of traffic, went slanting down. She settled back in the seat, sighing. Let him get the impression she’d resigned herself to what was happening. She knew he hadn’t invaded enough of her mind so far to be able to read her thoughts.
Moments later, the car moved clear of the main traffic—and now she should act at once before he realized she was about to attempt escape by a different route! She pushed the door open suddenly, tried to thrust herself out of the car.
Tried to. She felt a start of surprise on his side, then an instant painful clenching of her muscles, which held her frozen in position on the seat. After a moment, her arm flexed slowly, drew the door shut, locked it.
A flick of sardonic approval came from him. He’d guessed what she intended, checked her just in time . . . and, for the moment, she’d run out of tricks and would have to patiently wait for a new opportunity to come along.
She let herself relax physically. Mentally, tension remained. Not only to keep the other psi from increasing the advantage he held—if he gave her any kind of opening, she might still be able to jar him enough to shake him off. So far he’d been careful. In the two hours since she first encountered him, she’d gained hardly any impression of his personality, none at all of his purpose. She’d been at ease, doing a casual telepathic scan of whatever happened to touch her attention as she rested, half napping, when she sensed an unfamiliar pattern, a light, drifting, gentle awareness. Wondering what manner of creature was producing it—something small and fluffy and friendly seemed to fit—Telzey reached out toward the gentleness. But that appeared to cause alarm; it faded to a trace, almost vanished. So it had psi sense, too! Intrigued, she approached again, gradually and reassuringly. This time, whatever it was didn’t withdraw; after a moment, it seemed to be responding to her.
Then, in a flash, she knew that this was no natural impression but a trick, that while her defenses were relaxed, her attention distracted, a stealthy intrusion of her mind had begun. Instantly, she threw in every block she could to check the invader—nothing small and fluffy and friendly, but a human psi, a dangerously accomplished one. Her reaction kept him from taking complete control of her then and there, as he otherwise should have done. But she couldn’t do much else, however furiously she fought to break the holds he’d secured, or to reach his mind in turn. He’d already established control enough to leave her effectively helpless; and when she realized it, she stopped struggling, though she continued to watch for any momentary weakening of the control pattern or any move on his part to extend it.
There were no indications of either. She discovered next that she couldn’t get outside help. She was unable to inform anyone of her predicament; it was simply impossible. She had to act as if nothing had happened. For a while, there was no significant change in that situation. Then came an impulse to get out her car and start toward the center of Orado City, and she couldn’t prevent herself from following the impulse. She knew he was making her come to him, and presently that he waited somewhere in the Jadel Tower. But after he canceled her attempt to jump out of the car and let the dropcatch system immobilize her, there was no way she could keep from going there.
Unless he slipped up at the last moment . . .
He didn’t slip up. The Jadel Tower drifted closer; his controls remained locked on her mind, incomplete but adequate, and if it was causing him any stress to hold them, there was nothing to show it. She turned the Cloudsplitter toward a parking terrace at around the fiftieth level. A dozen private cars stood on it; a few people were moving about them. She set her car down in an empty slot, left the engine idling, unlocked the door on the driver’s side, and shifted over to the adjoining seat.
A few seconds later, the car door opened. A man settled himself in the driver’s seat and closed the door. Telzey looked over at him as the Cloudsplitter lifted back into the air.
His face was a featureless blur to her—he was covering up. Otherwise, she saw him clearly. He appeared to be fairly young, was of medium size, athletically built. And no one she knew.
The blurred face turned toward her suddenly. Telzey sensed no specific order but only the impulse to shift sideways on the car seat and put her hands behind her back. She felt him fasten her wrists together with light cuffs. Then she was free to resume her previous position and discovered that meanwhile the view outside the car also had blurred for her, as had the instrument console.
It reassured her somewhat. If he didn’t want her to know what he looked like, or where she was being taken, he must expect that she’d be alive and able to talk after this business was over. She settled back in the seat and waited.
* * *
Perhaps half an hour went by. Telzey remained wary, but while the mental hold the strange psi had on her didn’t relax in the least, he didn’t try to develop it. At last, he set the car down, shut off the engine and opened the door on his side. Suddenly, she could see her surroundings again, though what she saw wasn’t very revealing. They were in a carport; beyond it spread a garden with trees, a small lawn, some flowering shrubbery. Patches of white-clouded sky showed above the trees; nothing else.
The man, face still a blur, walked around the car and opened the door on her side.